May 28, 2024
New Insights from Dr. William Taggart, M.D.

The “Loneliness Epidemic” and the Benefits of Group Therapy: New Insights from Dr. William Taggart, M.D.

Group therapy, as an effective treatment modality, has been championed by many mental health professionals, including psychiatrist William Taggart M.D. Known as a leading clinician and an educator, Dr. Taggart has written and spoken widely on important mental health topics. One of the topics he is most passionate about is the important role that group therapy can have, particularly in enhancing social success and confidence among patients who struggle socially. Especially during this “Loneliness Epidemic” era which was recently announced by the U.S. Surgeon General, there are record numbers of Americans struggling socially. Here we discuss William Taggart M.D.’s views on group therapy for this ballooning and vulnerable segment of our society.

Group Therapy’s Role in Helping With Social Struggles

According to William Taggart M.D., recent neuroscience research is solidly confirming that group therapy serves as a vital treatment choice for individuals facing social challenges. In the hands of an experienced mental health clinician, group therapy can reliably create a unique environment where patients can develop and refine their social skills, through direct interaction with others facing similar issues. Dr. Taggart emphasizes the structured yet dynamic nature of group therapy, which facilitates a tailored therapeutic experience for each participant. When facilitated by an expert therapist, what results for each patient is experiences that are supportive, encouraging, instructive, therapeutically challenging, and even reparative.

A key aspect of group therapy starts even before the first session: co-patients are selected by an expert therapist to match the group members’ clinical needs. This way, a group is pre-selected to be, for instance, supportive where necessary (such as including co-patients who might be especially accepting), but also containing co-patients who, by design, may challenge other patients in therapeutic ways. Ways that may help them grow their social skills, and social confidence.

Once in process, group sessions engage participants in real-time social interactions, with similarly real-time expert therapeutic coaching. Such immediate feedback can be an important key to the success of the therapy. It allows a patient chances to “course correct” earlier than they otherwise would in analogous “real world” situations, thus allowing for quicker social learning than typically happens naturally.

Other therapeutic situations are also commonly structured-in by the therapist. For instance, interventions such as literally “rewinding” the group’s experience to afford a patient an opportunity for a “re-do,” especially when there might be an important lesson at hand for that patient or the group.

The Impact of Group Therapy

Dr. William Taggart MD, points out that clinical science is showing us that the real power of group therapy lies in its ability to mirror real-life interactions, while nonetheless taking place in a controlled, supportive environment. An environment which the therapist actively manages so that it nurtures and encourages, but also importantly challenges patients just the right amount too. Dr. Taggart stresses that there are psychological benefits in patients experiencing both successes and setbacks alike. For instance, in the hands of a seasoned group therapist, a seemingly “negative” social interaction in the group typically ends up transformed into an important therapeutic learning experience. One that leads to both future resilience for group members as well as a better understanding of how to navigate future social situations.

In general, Dr. Taggart sees group therapy as providing an important platform for individuals to witness and learn from each other’s experiences. Seeing others face and overcome similar challenges can significantly reduce feelings of isolation, distress and self-doubt. Humans are social animals, and according to Dr. Taggart, research shows that we tend to do best when we face difficulties together, learn together, and support each other together.

Friendly Faces: A Specialized Group Therapy Program

William Taggart M.D. applies these principles in his innovative group therapy program, Friendly Faces. Uniquely, Friendly Faces adds-in two additional therapeutic aspects to social group therapy: carefully pre-selected and vetted “real-world” situations, combined with intensive at-elbow therapeutic coaching by Dr. Taggart. Patients thus still experience all the social benefits of group therapy, but with the added confidence-boost of seeing themselves experience success not just in a clinical office, but in “real world” settings. Much improved social confidence – which is the reliable antidote to social anxiety – is a common patient report.


Dr. William Taggart MD, highlights his message that group therapy can be an important help for many people with social skills and social anxiety challenges. He encourages those people to ask about what group therapy options might possibly be appropriate for them, through their own mental health professional, primary care provider or clinic. (It is important to always consult your own provider first; they will know best what therapy may or may not be best for you and your unique health/mental health needs.) If no appropriate group can be found locally, there can be some online options; ask your own health provider to help you identify those offered by properly credentialed, licensed mental health professionals.

The bottom line for our loneliness-afflicted culture: through guided therapeutic group interactions, group therapy can build social confidence for those with social anxiety, and build social skills for those who may struggle with them. Dr. Taggart’s work with Friendly Faces illustrates the transformative potential of group therapy when facilitated by an experienced and compassionate therapist. For so many patients, Dr. William Taggart MD has seen group therapy become an important step towards leading a happier, more socially confident life.

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